Lee Westwood is not yet certain to dethrone Tiger Woods as the world’s top-ranked player later this month. Martin Kaymer could deny him.
Although the Official World Golf Rankings’ rolling two-year formula guaratees that Westwood will overtake Tiger Woods on Oct. 31 -- assuming, that is, neither plays before then -- Kaymer's decision to enter the Andalucia Valderrama Masters in Spain that same week now gives him the chance to leapfrog both.
The 25-year-old German moved up to fourth in the world with his third successive European Tour victory in the Dunhill Links Championship at St. Andrews on Sunday. If he were to win again at Valderrama on Oct. 31, he should climb past Woods, Westwood and current world No. 3 Phil Mickelson into the top spot.
No matter how all this shakes out, it sets up, in essence, a true shootout for the world No. 1 ranking at the WGC-HSBC Champions, where all four players are expected to play. That event is set for Nov. 4-7 in Singapore, and Mickelson is the defending champion.
After the HSBC Champions, Westwood and Kaymer still have the Nov. 11-14 Barclays Singapore Open, the Nov. 18-21 UBS Hong Kong Open and the season-ending Dubai World Championship – the European Tour’s equivalent of the Tour Championship – on Nov. 25-28 to play if they so desire. Westwood is likely to play only in Dubai as he tends to his ailing calf, while Kaymer might or might not pick up another start in Asia.
By contrast, the HSBC Champions is likely Mickelson’s last appearance for the year except for a possible appearance at Woods’ Chevron World Challenge on Dec. 2-5. After the HSBC Champions, Woods has confirmed that he’ll defend his title at the Australian Masters on Nov. 11-14, though that event isn’t likely to feature a strong field, before playing the Chevron World Challenge.
Although Westwood had wanted to achieve the top spot on the course, he said he would accept the top ranking any way he could get it.
"I've had a great year until getting injured. Look at all the world ranking points I've won -- I was leading that by a mile before my injury,” he said. "But I'm not allowing myself to think about it until it happens. It's something I've always dreamt of and it would be great if it happened."
The only way Woods could hang onto his position would be to enter another tournament in the next couple of weeks. But since he has already retaken the No. 1 spot from Ernie Els, Greg Norman, David Duval and Vijay Singh during his career, trying to grab it back off Westwood might prove an added spur for him on his return.
Westwood, who almost pulled out of the Dunhill Links on Thursday after aggravating his problem walking down a steep slope, was suffering again from the moment he got out of bed on Sunday. He teed off in the final round tied for fifth, but had to wait until the eighth hole for his first birdie and had four bogeys in his last eight for a 73.
"I woke up and it was hurting more than the other days, so all in all I don't suppose 7 under is too bad," he said. "I haven't had a chance to get it healed. I tried my hardest to get back to the Ryder Cup fully fit and got to 80 percent, which I thought was good enough with the adrenaline.
"But that was a tough week and this is not an easy one -- six-hour rounds and only two days off between finishing the Ryder Cup and starting here,” he explained. "It's just got progressively more agitated and achy as the week's gone on.
"I haven't been able to put in proper practice sessions since before June and you don't expect to maintain the same level and improve if you don't practice,” he said. "You won't see me coming back until I can practice fully and do myself justice out here."
He hopes that will be alongside Woods in China, but he might delay it for another three weeks and his defense of the Dubai World Championship, the final event of the European Tour’s 2010 season.